Whats in a Name

by Mike Hemming

I consider myself a child of the' 50's. Born in '43, I remember nothing of WW II, and only little bits of the Korean war. And I thank God I wasn’t of the later '60’s generation, peopled as it was with some of the most useless, selfish and cowardly trash to be brought forth in this country. Not all of them of course, but the scum sure did float to the surface and get all the airplay. But anyway, with the books available to me and later TV, I had learned that evil forces of Germany and Japan had to be smashed before they had enslaved the world. And the US Navy’s Submarines did no small part of this.

Submarines with great names like Wahoo, Archerfish, Scorpion, and Shark, things in the ocean that would take a big bite out of your butt if you messed with them. And that’s what they did... They took huge bites out of everything that the Japanese sent out until the home islands were starving and short of everything... Unable to fly enough training missions to even replace the pilots lost in places like the Marianas.

Not only did these boats have great names, they had great ship patches... Emblems showing that you had better fear the sailors within because if you didn’t, your butt was gonna walk home from this voyage. Patches showing fierce denizens of the deep firing torpedoes and in general busting up anything with a meatball emblem on it. Sometimes, a bare-breasted mermaid, riding or holding a torpedo was used, or something like that.

After the war, it was a reasonable idea to remove meatball emblems and Japanese flags from patches. After all, they were now as Dex says, our 'soapy shower pals' and had decided to conquer us economically instead of militarily. And so patches kept their aggressive nature and boats built into the 60’s kept their under sea names. Also a lot of patches had some Latin on them that freely translated to "Mess with me and I will make you drink 5 of the 7 seas". In fact, the names of some boats that had done well in the war were recycled and honored their predecessors for a job well done.

Unfortunately, the beginnings of PC was rearing its ugly head and the bare-breasted mermaid type of patch was discouraged if not banned. This was especially true if a boat moved to the east coast. Carp’s mermaid and torpedo patch was changed after she came to Norfolk in the late '50’s, what had been a unique patch, became a gold fish with a trident in its mouth. Not bad, but kind of a sad ending for a boat that had a good record in spite of being built late in the war.

The Requin’s patch when she was a radar picket was really kind of nondescript... Two sharks along side a boat. Much better was the WW II patch with a fearsome looking shark and a torpedo. The final one after her radar picket days was also good, with again, a shark emblem designed to instill confidence in its crew and possibly fear in its enemies.

Of course, the real sad times were yet to come, because until the early boomers, the good traditional names continued. Yes, you can make a case for naming them after famous people, but not a very good one, in my opinion. The advent of the Los Angles class was the real end. And here was Rickover at his most evil or vindictive, when asked why he named them after cities and he said,

"Because fish don’t vote."

Did he really think that some dufus in LA, with a switchblade in one hand and a slimjim for boosting cars in the other, gave a crap about how a sub was named? Or did Joe Blow, suburbanite, sitting in his backyard, beer can in fist watching his grass grow, really care? I doubt it... It was just Rickover’s way of showing he controlled things and that was that.

The sad final chapter was when at the commissioning of the USS Maryland SSBN 738, I saw that the ships patch consisted of mostly the Maryland flag. I noted the same to the skipper by saying you got a good boat here and from what I see a great crew, but this patch is a wimpy nothing. He said, sadly I noted,

"Yeah, but we can't have 'aggressive' patches or sayings on them anymore".

So even the saying "I’ll kick your keel up your packing gland" in Latin was out.

This was still the Cold War, and it was still a good idea to remind the Russians, that messing with us would have them end up on the short end of the stick. Even today, it's best to remind possible enemies of what might pop out of the ocean and hurt them. It's also not a bad idea to have our undersea warriors reminded that they are part of a long line of aggressive ass-kickers.

So I say, bring back the traditional, honored, aggressive names, and patches of our submarine force and stop naming submarines for states, cities, politicians, chemists, and even rebel generals.